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TIFF 2016: ‘Nocturnal Animals’ Is A Stylized Crime Movie With A Twist

Who’s Behind It

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, Nocturnal Animals is the second film written and directed by fashion mogul Tom Ford—and a big departure from his Oscar-nominated debut, A Single Man.

Who’s In It

Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Karl Glusman, Armie Hammer, and Laura Linney.

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Who’ll Love It

Fans of high-stakes crime cinema who also have a tolerance for arty experiments with structure and stories within stories.

What’s It About

A wealthy Los Angeles gallery owner unfulfilled by her troubled marriage and a life of vacuous glamour, Susan finds herself home alone with a good book—written by her ex-husband, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). This novel tells the story of a teacher (also played by Gyllenhaal) who gets involved in a violent, late-night altercation with a trio of men who kidnap his wife and daughter. As Susan reads about this man’s search for his family and their abductors, she reflects on her past with Tony and recognizes the role that their relationship played in inspiring this novel.

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Why You Should See It

The story of the novel Susan reads in Nocturnal Animals makes up the majority of the film’s running time, unfolding as a stylish, engrossing, occasionally shocking crime film. Susan’s portion of the film proves to be far less thrilling, as she spends most of her screen time simply reading a book. While this remove from the crime narrative fuels intriguing thematic undercurrents—and the structural conceit allows Ford to bypass any bland moments in the crime narrative—there’s an inescapable sense that Nocturnal Animals would be more effective if it only told the story within the story. In the end, Ford delivers a film full of originality and memorable performances (Michael Shannon is unforgettable as the troubled cop who teams up with the teacher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unhinged as one of the attackers), even if it doesn’t entirely succeed.

When You Can See It

Wednesday, September 14 at 9am (Scotiabank); Saturday, September 17 at 5:45pm (Visa Screening Room). Tickets available here. Opens in limited release November 18.

Check out two of the film’s teaser trailer below.

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